It’s safe to say that almost all dog lovers who’ve experienced a dog that jumps on strangers or barks incessantly or doesn’t walk well on a leash have consulted Cesar Millan, the acclaimed television personality dubbed “the dog whisperer.” Whether those dog lovers have watched one of his television shows or perused his website or simply read an article published somewhere, Millan has given more dog psychology advice than any other canine specialist.
But who would think that Cesar Millan Live!, presented on Saturday, April 9th, at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium by Broadway Series South, could be both entertaining and charming for old and young alike? It was. Millan proved to be not only informative but funny and as interesting to those adults in the audience looking for answers to their questions as he was to the children who were excited to see the dog almost as famous as Cesar Millan himself: Junior.
One battle that Millan has been passionately fighting for many years is to prove to the world that Pitbulls, such as his Junior (and his previous dog, the beloved Daddy), are good animals. “No dog is too much for me to handle,” Millan says. “I rehabilitate dogs. I train people.”
That’s a philosophy he repeats on each of his TV shows — The Dog Whisperer, Cesar 911, and Leader of the Pack — as well as in person, and one that he lives 24/7. Cesar Millan mentions often, whether on his TV show or in person, that dogs are dogs. Breeds such as the Pitbull (or Dobermans, German Shepherds, Rottweillers) are unjustifiably stereotyped, because of what a few uneducated owners have forced the dogs to do.
In his current live touring show, Cesar Millan begins before he even comes on stage. A screen reveals some commonly asked questions and the opportunity for audience members to vote on the ones they want him to answer. When he arrives (with Junior, a handsome gray-and-white Pitbull), smiling with contagious enthusiasm, he talks about himself briefly, creating a warm atmosphere with self-deprecating jokes. Then he launches into the crux of his “lecture,” delivered casually and with a sense of humor. His energy extends beyond the stage lights, touching the audience with empathy and wisdom.
Dogs’ sole purpose is to make humans happy, he reports. They are descended from wolves and have maintained some of that mentality. Like every other being, dogs like to be part of a pack. (Humans like to be part of packs, too, Millan points out. People “even smoke in packs.”). But the one thing people seldom realize is that dogs pick up on a human’s energy. “To a dog, you are energy. That’s it,” he says.
Millan’s dog psychology centers on his basic premise that owners should offer a calm and assertive energy whenever dealing with dogs. “You intention and emotion equals energy,” he tells the crowd, then he follows up with examples, using dogs he’s never met before. Saving Grace, an animal adoption agency located in Wake Forest, brought some of their dogs and obtained special training from Cesar right on stage.
The stages of life for a dog include the first 180 days, the essential beginning for the life of a puppy. At this stage, the puppy learns to follow. Olive, a Chihuahua-Miniature Pinscher mix, bounded on stage. Millan said, “What I’m seeking is a calm behavior,” as he taught the puppy how to keep a distance from his food (and to receive a reward for doing so).
With the help of a simple leash adjusted so that it’s high on the dog’s neck, Cesar Millan obtains almost instant results. Where the leash is placed determines whether the dog is obedient, he tells the audience, and follows up with a demonstration to prove his point.
Stage 2, the Play Stage, is another important moment in a dog’s life. Between the age of 4-6 months, dogs socialize with others and are anxious to play. Jada, a white-and-tan mixed-breed Hound/Boxer, happily comes onstage and seems perplexed by the sounds she hears from the audience. Again, Millan demonstrates how to train this happy and energetic dog.
The exploratory stage — Stage 3, normally 6-8 months — is one in which the dog might have developed a few bad habits, as another of Saving Grace’s dogs (Warren, an adorable and curious Cattle Dog mix) becomes the example. Again, Millan adjusts the dog leash up around the neck and asks Warren to pass by several dishes of food. Again, Cesar Millan proves that what the volunteers are doing with the dogs can be corrected so the dogs behave more calmly.
After the short intermission, Cesar Millan proudly tells the audience that both of his sons (Andre and Calvin) are young adults now with their own television shows, “carrying on the family tradition.” He then turns to a more serious subject: issues that may result in owners surrendering their dogs to shelters. These are the tough issues most dog owners are not equipped to resolve. Millan offers some simply and reasonable solutions.
Most dog misbehaviors result from separation anxiety and boredom, Cesar Millan says. “The best way to avoid boredom is to give dogs a job.” Control their excitement. Give them exercise. When you enter or leave a dog at home, place the dog in a comfortable position, go about your business, then leave without touch, talk, or eye contact. The same goes for your return home. Arrive without acknowledging the dog; and only after the dog is calm, reward the dog with your affection. “Dogs accept us for who we are,” he says.
Throughout the show, Cesar Millan offered what appeared to be his standard lecture/speech, his moments with his own dogs, some personal insight into his life and, of course, solid information about how dog owners can improve their relationships with their own canines. Including a local animal shelter in his show not only proved that he can work with any dog, but also highlighted the good work some local organizations are doing.
The one thing missing from the Cesar Millan Live! tour was audience interaction. But it appeared that both old and young, dog owners and celebrity watchers, left the show having learned something, even if was just that all dogs look to humans for guidance and affection.
CESAR MILLAN LIVE! (Broadway Series South, April 9 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium).
Rottweiler: A Complete Guide
Cesar Millan Live (2016 U.S. tour): https://www.cesarsway.com/cesarmillan/education/cesarmillanlive/live and https://www.cesarsway.com/cesarmillan/education/cesarmillanlive/usa (official web pages).
Cesar Millan (Mexican-American dog behaviorist and television star): https://www.cesarsway.com/ (official website), http://millanpackproject.org/ (Cesar Millan Foundation), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1559638/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/cesar.millan (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/cesarmillan (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Millan (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.